“Godspeed” by Nickolas Butler

Genre: Literary Fiction Godspeed
Publisher: Putna
Pub. Date: July 27, 2021

This book is difficult to review because the pace is often slow. Still, it picks up in places, almost feeling like a thriller. At both speeds, it draws the reader into a story about friendship, addiction, class, and greed. It centers around three blue-collar buddies in their forties who start a construction company together. They’re just scraping by when a wealthy woman offers them a contract to finish her trophy house in the mountains. They’ll earn a big sum, including a sizable bonus, if they can finish it in her four-month deadline. The hitch is that it’s nearly impossible considering the amount of work involved. They begin the project knowing that they will almost certainly incur exhaustion and physical injuries.

Godspeed” brims with insights into the politics of rural gentrification. As the townies rage at the influx of affluence into their small community, we see how stronger forces work against them. The mystery surrounding the trophy house’s previous contractors, as well as the purpose behind the four-month deadline, create further tension for the protagonists still. But even with all this conflict to explore, Butler sometimes dwells, too often, on the beauty of the house and countryside at the exclusion of his characters. The descriptions are lovely, but after a while, they get tedious.

A few of the book’s plot twists seem modeled after those of a thriller novel. There was good suspense however, Butler is stronger when focusing on the complexities of working-class male friendships, especially in the setting of physically-demanding work. He ensures that the reader comprehends what construction work really means. I have a newfound admiration for people who work outside with their hands. I also found the woman footing the house’s construction compelling, and wish Butler did more to develop her. Still, the novel succeeds as a story about the haves and have-nots. A couple of the twists are over the top, but the novel’s core message rarely suffers. Whether it’s leaning too hard into its genre trappings, or its physical descriptions of the mountains, “Godspeed” always manages to keep us thinking about survival, and what we’re willing to sacrifice in an unequal world.

Personal note: If you read this book, am I the only one who thought that this novel was more than a thriller.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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